Mads Pedersen took a shock win for Denmark in the elite men’s road race at the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships that will be defined by the horrendous weather conditions.
The Dane out-sprinted Matteo Trentin (Italy) in a three-up sprint alongside Switzerland’s Stefan Küng, with the Italian left shell-shocked, expecting to have taken the win from the trio.
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Gianni Moscon finished fourth, having worked hard to set things up for his compatriot Trentin, while Peter Sagan (Slovakia) left it too late, peeling off the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres to finish fifth.
Mads Pedersen had joined Stefan Küng at the front of the race with 45km to go, before Moscon and then Trentin and Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) joined with 30km remaining. Van der Poel, a pre-race favourite, didn’t have the legs, cracking with 12km to go, which vastly improved Trentin’s chances heading towards the finish line.
The Italian, by far the most accomplished rider of the trio, looked in control in the closing kilometres when it became clear they would contest the victory. Trentin unleashed his sprint in the finishing straight but Pedersen then pushed on past him with considerable ease, proving to be the freshest of the three after a gruelling race in Yorkshire.
How it happened
Many fans will have awoken to the news that they could have an extra half an hour in bed, as the start time was pushed back half an hour and the course altered due to the torrential weather that continued to plague Yorkshire overnight, and would continue throughout the day.
Not as fortunate were the riders set to tackle the reduced 261km course, who were up before 7am to get ready to ride through downpours for over six hours from Leeds to Harrogate. They would, however, now miss out on the climbs to Buttertubs and Grinton Moor, but see an increase in the laps of Harrogate from seven to nine.
The racing got off to an electric start, with a number of riders trying to get off the front early, including Ireland’s Dan Martin. A strong breakaway group eventually got away, which included two 2019 Grand Tour winners in Richard Carapaz (Ecuador) and Primož Roglič (Slovenia). They were accompanied by Nairo Quintana, with all three later abandoning once the race got to Harrogate, maybe they were just trying to get to their hotels as quickly as possible rather than aiming for glory or making moves on behalf of team-mates.
The weather was absolutely horrific as the kilometres slowly ticked by, some of the worst seen all week during a World Championships that hasn’t exactly been a dry affair. Coming off one of the remaining climbs, Cray Hill, riders had to perilously pass through standing water on the road.
As the race entered Harrogate with 120km to go to begin the nine laps of the finishing circuit, Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert crashed across the finish line. One of the pre-race favourites, the 37-year-old abandoned a lap later in tears, having been distanced as the early breakaway was also swept up. Gilbert’s young compatriot Remco Evenepoel had tried to drag him back up to the peloton but the effort proved futile with the 19-year-old also later abandoning his first inclusion in the elite men’s event.
As riders began to abandon in their droves, Rohan Dennis also climbed off early, his trade team Bahrain-Merida then announcing his contract termination before the race had ended. The situation in Harrogate was quickly becoming a case of who could manage not to not slip off the back rather than who was going to go off the front.
Dan Martin was the next name to abandon, with Irish team-mate Sam Bennett also calling it a day, having been struggling to keep the wheels spinning as the crowds pushed him on when the gradient increased. Back in the pack Peter Sagan looked assured as others gritted their teeth, with only 86 riders remaining with four laps to go.
America’s Lawson Craddock attacked with 67km to go and was soon joined by Switzerland’s Stefan Küng. Denmark’s Mads Pedersen then rode up to the two leaders with 50km remaining, switching places with Craddock as the American dropped off, their gap at 20 seconds, while Geraint Thomas climbed off behind.
Italy’s Gianni Moscon then bridged across to the two leaders as did Mike Teunissen (Netherlands), with Alaphilippe and his French lieutenants showing their faces at the front of the peloton, closely marked by Mathieu van der Poel.
Van der Poel then attacked with 33km to go, taking Matteo Trentin with him. Soon there was a group of five at the front of a race and they worked hard to maintain a 49-second gap onto the final 14km lap of Harrogate, with a weary peloton trying to muster the energy to chase behind.
The young Dutchman was finely poised to take the rainbow bands to cap off his breakthrough season, as many expected he would before the start, but surprised many when he cracked with 12.5km to go, the length of the race and inclement conditions proving too much for the 24-year-old.
This cleared the way for Trentin, a seasoned racer who has won stages of all three Grand Tours as well as the European road race in 2018. With Moscon pulling hard on the front of the quartet, their advantage climbed to 1-26 with 10km remaining, pretty much out of sight of the peloton unless they got organised quickly.
However, the front four maintained their gap over a now heavily reduced bunch with 7km to go, the remnants of the peloton barely having the energy to chase as the Germans held a high pace preventing splinter attacks from peeling off the front.
Moscon dropped from the leaders up the Oak Beck climb with 6km to go as Küng caused himself considerable pain on the front as he tried to keep the pace up and guarantee himself a medal. Such was the pace being set by the Swiss rider that Pedersen was clinging on at the back, with Trentin taking a drink and readying himself for what he hoped would be a routine sprint finish.
Küng continued to drive with 4km left, the gap still above a minute, as Sagan attacked the peloton behind. However, it was a little too late, as the leaders had time to slow right down coming up to the finish on to Parliament Street and ready their sprints.
Eventually, Trentin launched and Küng didn’t have the legs. Pedersen, however, proved to be the freshest of the three, powering past the Italian to quite comfortably take the victory.
The 23-year-old Dane fell to the floor as his team swamped their first ever world champion. Trentin looked shell-shocked, he’s unlikely to have a better chance of claiming the rainbow bands than on this rainy day in Yorkshire.
Behind Küng, Moscon rolled in in fourth, with Sagan following 40 seconds later, his move having come too late, as Norway’s Alexander Kristoff won the bunch sprint behind.
UCI Road World Championships 2019, elite men’s road race: Leeds to Harrogate (261.8km)
1. Mads Pedersen (Denmark), in 6-27-28
2. Matteo Trentin (Italy), at same time
3. Stefan Küng (Switzerland), at two seconds
4. Gianni Moscon (Italy), at 17s
5. Peter Sagan (Slovakia), at 43s
6. Michael Valgren (Denmark), at 45s
7. Alexander Kristoff (Norway), at 1-10
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)
9. Gorka Izagirre (Spain)
10. Rui Costa (Portugal), all at same time